Saturday, November 16, 2013

2010 Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon (Nagambie Lakes)

There’s an old school honesty and simplicity to Tahbilk’s wines that I find immensely appealing. They are the kind of wines that can age 10-20 years without much of a fuss. And while everyone’s off chasing the next hip wine style, Tahbilk just sit there in Nagambie Lakes punching out Cabernet, Shiraz and Marsanne. Moreover, at under $20 a bottle these wines always represent great value.

The 2010 Cabernet is a lovely medium-bodied claret with just that touch of extra fruit weight one would expect when compared to a French equivalent. Flavours of blackcurrant, cigar box, and a touch of eucalypt. Acid driven and accompanied by fine tannin. As it pushes through the finish, and as it opened up over a few days, a lovely earthiness emerges. Very enjoyable now and I’d reckon it will surprise many how well it evolve over the next 10 years.


RRP: $18
ABV: 13.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2013-2020+


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

2011 Yelland and Papps Devote Old Vine Grenache

It was 2009 when Red and I visited the Barossa Valley and did a tasting of Yelland and Papps wines in Susan and Michael Papp's dining room (prior to their cellar door opening). From those relatively early years for the winery to the present day, they have expanded their range considerably across three clear price points, all of comparatively high quality.
Despite there being several difficult vintages in the last 5 years, Yelland and Papps have managed to produce good to very good wines in small volume, regardless -or in spite- of vintage.

In contrast to the difficult, mostly heat affected Barossa vintages in recent memory (2003, 2007, 2008), 2011 wet, wet, wet – one of the wettest in decades.  As such, it presented winemakers with a range of different challenges. This has come out in the wines I have tried from this vintage across most regions in Australia. However, 2011 has also presented winemakers with the opportunity to make good wines of a different character to the standard, 'typical vintage' style.
With all of this in mind, I was interested to try one of Yelland and Papps' strongest wines - the Old Vine Grenache. This has been a consistently reliable wine over several years, and once again, it holds its head up in this tricky vintage, adding a stylistic twist.

Tasting Note:
Stalky, herbal nose pinot colour, initially some new leather and varnish, and with air, considerable white pepper.
On opening, medium bodied and savoury. Softening red cherry and raspberry fruit, mixed spice, pleasant herbaceous notes.
Lighter bodied and less intense fruit than in the past, not as primary or rounded, and more restrained with a sharper acidity that adds a bit of zing.  Spicy and peppery to the last.
Another good result from a difficult vintage for Yelland and Papps, and a definite ‘point of difference’ wine based on the several vintages of Devote Old Vine Grenache tasted previously.

ABV:  14.0%
RRP: $35
Score: 90pts

Sunday, November 10, 2013

2008 Campillo Crianza Rioja (Spain)

This is just plain yum. Good with food or without, I wouldn’t hesitate in buying this if it was on a wine list and I was ordering for a table of people. A few years ago I would have avoided it exactly because it was a Tempranillo. Funny how your tastes can change with time.

It’s not much more than medium-bodied, but there’s a nice richness here. A cleansing acidity gives it good balance. Flavours of dark fruits, lovely coffee oak, before turning more savoury through the finish with some tobacco notes. Great to drink now, though it should also drink well for the next five years. Drinkability to the fore here.


RRP: $30 approx.
Closure: Cork
Drink: 2013-2018


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Vision realised: Avani Winery - Mornington Peninsula

Davendra and Shashi Singh are like many small-scale winemakers we have met on our travels. They have a passion for their craft and work hard to realise their vision. In their case, enough passion and daring to strike out beyond their successful restaurant businesses and take the considerable step of buying their own winery. This move occurred in 1998 when they purchased Wildcroft Estate, located south of Red Hill in the Mornington Peninsula. From 2000, Philip Jones of the Bass Phillip winery made Avani’s wines, with Shashi’s role in the winemaking process increasing from 2004 onwards.

Some reasonably young Syrah vines grafted onto older vines.
Halfway down the vineyard at the transition point from red to grey soil
As we walked with Shashi and Davendra through their winery and vineyard in early October, it was difficult not to be impressed by their enthusiasm, though also their boldness: Avani are possibly unique in the Mornington Peninsula (and if not, only one of a handful of wineries) to exclusively produce Syrah (quite rightly named given the style they aim for).
When asked about the exclusive production of Syrah, Shashi explained that following several vintages where Syrah stood out, they decided to take the advice of Phillip Jones, as well as trusting their own palates, replanting a conventional suite of Mornington grape varieties with Syrah. Shashi explained that they had initially aimed to make Pinot Noir using Bass Phillip's Pinot Noir as a (very high) benchmark. When the first few vintages turned out to be successful, though not exceptional wines (in their view), they decided to focus on the grape most assisted by the terroir. Acknowledging the time it takes, and the financial risks involved, it is still refreshing to see winemakers taking a punt to make wine based on the varieties that are empirically superior when grown on a given site, rather than persisting with a variety unsuited to the region and/or terroir.

Walking further down the sloping north facing Avani vineyard, the soil transitioned from deep red volcanic clay near the winery, to a slatey, alluvial grey lower down. Davendra and Shashi shared with us the journey they have taken developing the winery and vineyard over the last 15 years. This included the ongoing process of rehabilitating the vineyard, transforming it gradually from a conventional winemaking operation to an organic and biodynamic one, dramatically reducing the cropping levels while increasing the vine density.

Shashi and Davendra were rightly proud of the positive impact organic and biodynamic farming practices were having on the health of the soil (and as we would find out later that morning, on the wines themselves). The soil was healthy: soft underfoot with lush grass and plant life nearby.

The Avani vineyard, 3/4 down, looking toward the winery
Shashi and Davendra are now 100% in control of the whole winemaking process, with the 2012 vintage being the first made exclusively on site. A vertical tasting of the 2009, 2011 and an in-barrel taste of the 2012 confirmed that the wines being produced at Avani are on the improve as the younger vines on the vineyard mature, and as the increasingly confident winemaking is honed and perfected.

As we both left the winery on the sunny spring morning, it was clear that the story of Avani was one that should appeal to the hearts, minds and palates of drinkers keen to try small output, hand-made, honest yet exciting wines.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

2012 Teusner Avatar (Barossa Valley)

This is such a good wine. I’ve had some superb Melton Nine Popes over the years but this might be the best Barossa GSM I’ve tried.  Grenache 40%, Shiraz 30% Mataro 30%.

Stick your nose into a glass of this and big smile is sure to follow. A beautiful bouquet that evolved over a couple of days with aromas of berries, florals, chocolate oak, five spice and orange peel. To drink it is eminently smashable but the quality and complexity on offer encourage you to savour and sip slowly. Juicy, pitch perfect ripeness, and with a long, savoury finish. Lovely chocolate, spice, and a stony minerality are the signature flavours. Can be found for around $30 and is worth every penny. Drink now or at anytime over the next decade.


RRP: $35
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2013-2022

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